Rep. Ron DeSantis on refugee debate: 'Err on side of protecting the American people'

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 26, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRENDA BUTTNER, FOX NEWS HOST: I bet this is a hot topic at your Thanksgiving table right now. What to do with 10,000 Syrian refugees to make sure ISIS doesn't sneak in with them. The president already threatening to veto a bill that would vet them further, something not sitting well with Florida Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

You voted with the majority on that bill to further vet, basically, our vetting process for refugees. 47 Democrats voted along with you. Is that a sign that the president is becoming more isolated on this issue?


BUTTNER: You, too.

DESANTIS: Yeah, I think without question, if you look at the numbers that the president is talking about, 10,000 people, if only one percent of those mean to do us harm or intending to commit terrorist acts, that means you're bringing in 100 terrorists into the country, and we talked to the FBI director, even before the Paris attack, and he testified in front of Congress that the government cannot vet these people adequately because there isn't enough information to do it.

So, I think the prudent policy is to err on the side of protecting the American people, and here's the thing, Brenda. We can help about four or five refugees over in that theater for the cost of bringing one over here. So even if we didn't have these terrorism concerns, I think there's an argument our money is probably better spent by sending it over there and having people directed to safe zones.

BUTTNER: What happens if the Senate doesn't take up this bill? It may not get traction. Minority Leader Harry Reid doesn't really want to take it up. Then the president plans to veto it. What can you do?

DESANTIS: Well, first of all, I think that it's likely to get to the president's desk. He is going veto it and he's going to have to explain and I think you see his poll numbers are dropping precipitously given how he's handled this issue. I think he's like -- 35 percent approve of how he is handling terrorism. So if he vetoes the bill and the public responds negatively to him, I think that's going to put even more pressure on the Democrats in the Congress to join with us if we put funding prohibitions on the next budget bill that comes down the pike, not allowing the president to spend money to bring any unvetted refugees over to our country, and we could potentially end up with veto-proof majorities. We already got that in the House with our bill. This could potentially get us there in the Senate if the president vetoes a bill and then there's a public backlash.

BUTTNER: There's a move afoot in our northern neighbor in Canada to basically say, we won't take any single men, we're only taking women and children. But we have a very porous border and does that really stop the terrorists from getting in? Women -- we have seen in Paris -- can be terrorists, too.

DESANTIS: You have to vet everybody. You absolutely do have female suicide bombers. And so the idea that just because it's a female that you're not going to vet them, that doesn't work. So yes, I think we have to be concerned, and not only with the refugee situation. It's very easy for people to fly into Canada from some of these troubled spots and then they can come across our northern border. So I think it's absolutely a cause of concern.

BUTTNER: And what do we do about that?

DESANTIS: Well, I think that we have to look at how you can gain entry into our country. The refugees is one. The legal immigration system is another. And then we also have visa waiver and people coming over on visas. I think all that has to be vetted in a way that errs on the side of protecting the American people. If there's a chance that someone may be inclined to be an enemy of the country, then I think you have to err on the side of caution.

BUTTNER: You know, the argument on the other side is that we, as Americans -- our values are that it's our obligation to bring in refugees, those who have been in war-torn situations and need help. How do you answer that?

DESANTIS: Well, we actually have been way more generous than pretty much every country in the world combined. But simply because there's a war, that's never been necessarily the test. We've accepted people who qualified for asylum because they were persecuted, say, like the Christians in Syria are being persecuted because of their faith or their ethnicity, but simply because there’s a war, that doesn't necessarily mean that everybody gets to come to the United States, and as I mentioned earlier, I think you can help a lot of these people in a more cost-effective way. You can help more of them by administering that aid overseas rather than flying them halfway across the world.

BUTTNER: Right. Now what about the issue of giving state governors the choice whether or not to take the refugees in? That would require basically amending the Refugee Act of 1980. Do you support that?

DESANTIS: I do. Here's why. State and local law enforcement are the primary protectors of the health, safety, and welfare of the people in the individual states. So they have a significant responsibility to keep their citizens safe, such as at the Mall of America, as you mentioned earlier on the show. So I think that they should absolutely have a voice in whether people are coming into their state that could potentially pose a problem.

BUTTNER: Do you think you might have the votes in Congress to do that?

DESANTIS: I think we could definitely pass it out of the house. Whether we could pass it out of the Senate, I'm not sure. And I would imagine, given the president's posture on this, that he would threaten to veto such a bill.

BUTTNER: All right. Congressman, thank you very, very much. I hope you have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

DESANTIS: Same to you.

BUTTNER: All right. Thanks.

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